TTAG reader Connor writes:
I wanted to share with you my experience last week at the University of Rhode Island, where we had a gun threat. Officially there was never a gunman, thank God. But I was so appalled by URI’s lockdown procedures that I felt I needed to write to you. Given the current issues of school safety, this incident reinforced with me the idea that a lockdown won’t do much without someone to actively end the shooting. In fact, the procedure at URI may have even made it easier for a shooter. URI is effectively a gun free zone, as our campus police do not even carry arms. To defend the school, we have to wait for real police, some 10-15 min away. Anyway, here is what happened on Thursday, April 5th, 2013 . . .
I am a sophomore at the University of Rhode Island and while sitting in class last week, I overheard another student say something about a shooter. She told me there was a gunman not to far from the building I was in. About ten minutes later, and 29 minutes after the first 911 call, I received a text message from the university’s automatic alert system: THERE IS A POSSIBLE ACTIVE SHOOTER ON CAMPUS. ALL FACULTY, STAFF, AND STUDENTS STAY WHERE THEY ARE UNTIL FURTHER UPDATES.
The school was on lockdown for almost 3 hours. Thankfully, no shots were fired that day. The official report is that there was never any gunman, just some confusion from a plastic Nerf gun. But that’s not what’s interesting about what happened.
A lockdown is hailed as the solution to a school shooting. Stay put, lock the doors, wait for the cops. What URI did was a “lockdown” in name only. In my classroom, once we had official confirmation of a threat, we took a quiz. A possible active shooter and we were heads down, taking a quiz. The professor decided that it wasn’t a big deal and kept going with the lesson, taking no action to secure the room.
Meanwhile, the class was understandably nervous. Throughout this whole ordeal, the door to my classroom remained unlocked. I’ll repeat that: THE DOOR WAS UNLOCKED DURING THE LOCKDOWN. The professor was sitting in a chair in front of a glass door, just hanging out. Students and professors were entering and exiting the class as if nothing happened. I repositioned myself in the room as to not be in a potential line of fire, but every time that door opened, I tensed up and prepared myself for what might happen.
After maybe an hour and a half of this hellish “lockdown” I decided I’d had enough. The news reports people had looked up indicated that there seemed to be no shooter, no shots were heard all day, nobody was harmed, no sirens were heard and the university hadn’t sent any new information. I made the (in hindsight, stupid as all hell) decision to leave the building, but I felt unsafe where I was.
So I moved to another building where my buddy let me in. Nobody stopped me from leaving or questioned me while I was walking. I wasn’t the only one out there. I must have seen 30 other kids milling about on my short walk. Come to find out, the kids evacuated from the hall the “shooter” was in just hung around outside. I did not see a single cop outside, however. If there really had been a shooter, there would almost certainly have been a ridiculous number of deaths inflicted. Also, the university did a God-awful job of notifying students. The gunman would have had a half hour to run anywhere on campus before anyone was any the wiser.
An aside: the building where the “shooter” first appeared was evacuated by a fire alarm. At worst, this funneled everyone into the hall where the shooter could have killed scores, and at best, he could have slipped away in the crowd.
I suppose this goes to show that lockdowns don’t do what people think they do. They don’t guarantee the safety of anyone, they only guarantee stationary targets. Someday, another school will encounter a real gunman. If lockdown laziness such as what happened at URI is common elsewhere, then we have an education system that can’t protect those who trust it, and school shootings will indeed become more deadly.
What really gets me though, is that our president is saying our school acted admirably and exemplary, doing everything by the book and keeping our students safe. That is supreme bullshit. I have never felt so helpless in my life, and I hope I never again will.
The school and society ask us to put our safety in their hands. They tell us they can protect us. They tell us that we don’t need weapons, just the campus police. (Again, at URI, the police are unarmed. For the children?) In this case, URI has failed to keep me and the rest of the students safe. And I am pissed. I am 19, and the day I am eligible, I will get my LTC and I will take responsibility for my safety. I pray that by then the university (and the state) will let me protect myself. There is no such thing as a safe campus, only one that hasn’t yet felt the fear of being unarmed and helpless, at the mercy of a madman.